New bill aims to protect substance abuse treatment coverage

Credit: Patrick Semansky

Credit: Patrick Semansky

Eyeing a problem made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Representatives will consider a bill meant to ensure that defendants awaiting trial can get treatment for substance abuse.

With members of Congress from Maryland and New York, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, reintroduced the bipartisan Due Process Continuity of Care Act, a companion to a similar Senate bill.

The bill amends the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy (MIEP), which denies Medicaid coverage to defendants being detained pre-trial.

The bill authorizes $50 million in planning grant dollars for the Health and Human Services Secretary to help states, counties and localities improve the quality of care provided in jails.

“Too many people in Ohio and across the country have been negatively impacted by the opioid epidemic,” Turner said in a statement Tuesday.

The Medicaid Inmate Exclusion Policy “perpetuates a dangerous cycle of treatment interruption and recidivism for individuals awaiting trial,” his statement added. “Fixing this unconstitutional flaw in our Medicaid system will save lives.”

In 2019, the Center for American Progress called Dayton “the epicenter of opioid-related fatalities.”

In late 2016, the escalating number of overdose deaths in the Dayton area forced a local coroner’s office to contract with with a funeral home to store bodies.

The region suffered 378 overdose deaths in the first half of 2017, the center said at the time, but noted that by June 2018, that number had been cut to 132 overdose-related deaths, a 65% reduction.

Ohio was one of eight states whose opioid mortality rate doubled every three years from 1999 to 2016, and Ohio had the fifth-highest rate of overdose deaths in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health in July 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the problem statewide. More Ohioans died of an opioid overdose in the second quarter of 2020 than at any time since the epidemic began, according to an analysis by a task force created by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.

The analysis by Yost’s Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE) found the death rate in Ohio from opioid overdose at 11.01 per 100,000 population in the second quarter of 2020 — the highest rate in 10 years at that time.

The Senate companion bill is led by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and others.

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